How foodbanks went global
New Internationalist – The rise of food charity in some of the most affluent countries is surely a sign that something has gone badly wrong. So why is this broken model being exported to the rest of the world? Charlie Spring investigates.
When Leila arrived at the church hall, the last of the tins were being tidied away. It was her first food-bank visit, but she was late, after taking three buses to reach one that was open outside her work shifts. As parents wheeled in their prams for the playgroup, one woman noticed Leila’s distress at the shame of having to ask for food, and pressed a £20 note ($25) into her hand.
A week later I went to meet Leila. She told me she’d come to northern England from Pakistan to marry. When her husband died, she learned she and her two children were barred from accessing any state support. At first, she’d turned to friends and her mosque for help, and found low-paid work in a burger bar that she could do with her limited English. She took meals home, but the only halal option was fizzy drinks and fries, which she saved for her kids. The food bank was Leila’s last resort.
Across the UK, emergency relief has become a lifeline to an ever-widening subset of society. Users range from people forced into destitution by immigration rules, to working families on low or insecure incomes, and those on benefits – including people with disabilities – that won’t stretch. Although classified as a nation with a ‘stable food supply’, a 2018 report on the UK’s progress against Sustainable Development Goal 2 (‘Zero Hunger’) warned that deep inequalities within the country mean it is ‘struggling to address malnutrition’.